Joe Sakic, Alison Sydor headline Canada's Sports Hall of Fame class
Ceremony to be held in Oct. 16
Only a handful of curlers have accomplished as much as Russ Howard did over his long career.
Even fewer can say they helped revolutionize the game.
Howard, who will be inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame this October, said one of his favourite memories was creating the so-called Moncton Rule — the forerunner to the Free Guard Zone — which helped create more offence in curling.
"It has really changed the sport," Howard said Thursday from his hometown of Moncton. "Now that I'm a TV guy, you can see the [ratings] and the numbers are growing big-time because the sport is so much more exciting, partly because of that rule."
The rule, implemented in the early 1990s, forced teams to deal with the rocks in play rather than rely on the option of consistently clearing them out. It also created more scoring, comeback opportunities and excitement.
Howard won national and world titles in 1987 and 1993 and added an Olympic gold medal with skip Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006.
Howard was named in the Hall's athlete category Thursday along with former NHL star Joe Sakic, cyclist Alison Sydor, Paralympian Andre Viger and the 1992 Olympic champion women's coxless four rowing team of Kirsten Barnes, Brenda Taylor, Jessica Monroe-Gonin, Kay Worthington and Jennifer Walinga.
"I knew I had done pretty well in my career as a curler but you don't parallel it with other athletes in other sports, especially the big-time sports like hockey and football, baseball, stuff like that," Howard said. "So it's pretty cool."
Former Canadian Amateur Hockey Association president Murray Costello and sport development architect Dr. Jean-Guy Ouellet will be inducted as builders. The official induction ceremony will be held Oct. 16.
Howard is the 14th curler to be named to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the first since the Sandra Schmirler team (Schmirler, Jan Betker, Joan McCusker and Marcia Gudereit) was inducted in 2000.
Sakic, who had 1,641 career regular-season points over 20 seasons in the NHL, won league championships with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001. He also won titles at the Winter Olympics, world hockey championship, World Cup of Hockey and the world junior championship.
"When I heard the news I kind of thought back because it was my goal just to play in the National Hockey League," Sakic said. "And then to represent your country and to [be honoured] by Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, it's pretty amazing.
"It's something that I never would have ever dreamed of."
Sydor won Olympic silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games and won world titles in 1994, '95 and '96. She was a three-time medallist at the Pan American Games and earned 17 career World Cup mountain bike victories.
Viger, who died in 2006, was one of best wheelchair racers of all-time. He won 10 medals over five appearances at the Paralympic Games and held world records at several distances.
The coxless four team that won Olympic gold at the Barcelona Games in 1992 is considered one of Canada's best-ever rowing crews. Walinga was forced to withdraw just a day before the competition but Worthington stepped in and helped the crew win a gold medal.
Costello, an International Ice Hockey Federation vice-president, has helped Canada become a powerhouse in the sport of hockey. He has spearheaded numerous development and skills programs that continue to be used today.
"It's always nice to be recognized in your own sport but to be recognized across all sports through Canada's Sports Hall of Fame is very special indeed," Costello said. "Especially when you consider the people you're being inducted with, the accomplishments they have in other sports.
"It puts you in a very select group, one that you'd never thought you'd be a part of. That too makes it very special."
Ouellet, who held the position of Director of Mission Quebec, designed and implemented programs to prepare athletes from the province to represent Canada at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The programs were the basis for the high performance sports model in Quebec and are used today as a model for other provinces and countries around the world.
"The Class of 2013 is truly an inspiring group of Canadian sports heroes," said Colin MacDonald, chair of the Hall's board of governors. "We are proud to be able to share the stories of their achievements so that we can inspire all Canadians to be the best they can be in all aspects of life."